« PoprzedniaDalej »
that eloquence is inadmissible in the statement of religious truth; or that, when employed in consistency with the great ends of religious instruction, it is not entitled to high admiration. We must however, contend, that in religious compositions, a profusion of ornament is altogether misplaced ; and that such compositions may be eminently adapted to their primary object, and deserving, of course, of universal acceptance, though they have scarcely any pretensions to eloquence.
There is a perverse taste which prevails in the present day, not so much among the readers of religious publications, as among the hearers of the gospel; and which many preachers seem disposed to gratify. This perversity, it is not easy to define or to characterize ; but in general it may be described as a predilection for what is startling and extravagant, in opposition to what is simple, natural, and edifying. No attentive observer of the religious world can have failed to remark, that there are multitudes to whom the most wholesome instruction is distasteful, unless recommended by a profusion of spiritual sauces and stimulants. In various parts of the kingdom, and no where more than in the metropolis, the superabundance of the supply seems to have rendered the hearers of the gospel capricious and fastidious. Turning away in disgust from the most momentous truths exbibited in a pure and simple style, there are many who must be caught by impertinent anecdotes, by vulgar witticisms, by startling but inapposite similitudes, by abrupt and unnatural transitions, and by far-fetched and fantastic illustrations. A century ago, it was thought a most felicitous description of good writing, when it was characterized as natural • but not obvious ;' but the style accommodated to this perverse taste is neither natural nor obvious. It is greatly to be deplored, that there are so many preachers who seem to aim at pleasing by studying to say what is calculated to surprise and astonish, rather than to instruct and improve. And it is also devoutly to be wished, that, if all who attend on Christian ordinances cannot be taught to distinguish that eloquence which is genuine from that which is false or vulgar, they would at least learn to give a respectful attention to sound thinking * without ambition, and a pure style without affectation.'
From the complexion of the preceding remarks, the reader may perhaps infer, that the volume of Discourses which we are now to notice, like the general mass of such publications, states common ideas in common language, presenting little deserving either of praise or censure, too bad for a blessing, "too good for a curse.' No inference could be more erroneous. Mr. Waugh's Sermons exhibit, in almost every page, unequivocal marks of character and individuality, without man.
nerism and without extravagance. They are distinguished, not by the eccentricity, but by the superiority of the talents displayed in them. We may apply to these sermons Solomon's description : " Because the preacher was wise, he still taught " the people knowledge. The preacher sought to find out ac
ceptable words, and that which was written was upright, “ even words of truth.” The sentiments are evangelical and instructive; and the language is not only correct, but polished, sometimes splendid. The doctrines which are exhibited most prominently are, happily, not distinguished by great novelty, for they are the vital and essential principles of the gospel ; but the Author's illustration of them is marked not unfrequently, by considerable novelty as well as beauty. With an intellect clear, vigorous, and judiciously disciplined, he combined a cultivated fancy and a taste singularly refined and elegant. There are few volumes of sermons from which it would be possible to select so many vivid and graphical descriptions, both of the scenes of external nature, and of the diversified emotions, and conduct, and circumstances of human beings. The multiplicity and the beauty of these pictures constitute one of the most striking characteristics of the volume. Along with this power of portraying interesting scenes and situations, this talent for poetical embellishment, Mr. Waugh displays no ordinary capacity for philosophical discussion. By many readers, these sermons will be thought to display too much of abstraction and refinement, and some parts of the volume will perhaps appear deficient in evangelical richness and unction. It must be allowed, indeed, that it is adapted to intelligent and literary, rather than to uneducated and ill-informed readers; but the greater proportion of it is fitted to gratify and delight, as well as to instruct and edify the plainest and least cultivated understanding. It may be added, that the volume contains many very striking and interesting appeals to the heart and the conscience; though it is to be regretted, that several of the discourses do not conclude with a longer and more pointed application. The abruptness with which they close, is almost the only indication that they are posthumous; for, in other respects, they are not only accurate, but polished and elaborate compositions. On the whole, it may not only be confidently affirmed, that this volume will form an honourable and permanent memorial of the piety, talents, and acquirements of its much lamented Author; but when it is considered, that these discourses were written only once, and without any view to publication, that the writer died in the thirtieth year of his age, and the fifth of his ministry, and that the disease which terminated his earthly labours had been
working in his frame several years before he entered on the ministry, it may well be doubted whether there are ten preachers in the kingdom, from whose manuscripts, under such circumstances, such a volume could have been selected.
Having said thus much respecting the general character of the present volume, we shall now give a slight notice of each discourse and a few specimens.
Sermon I., founded on 1 Cor. ii. 2., is a long and carefully written discourse, exhibiting prominently almost all the leading facts and doctrines of the Christian system, and containing some very striking and splendid passages. Sermon II. is a perspicuous and useful discourse, on the Grace and
Condescension of the Son of God,' from 2 Cor. viii, 9. Sermon III., Meditation at the tomb of the Risen Saviour,' from Mat. xxviii. 6., Come, see the place where the Lord *lay,'--is an elegant sermon, defective chiefly, as not containing a distinct statement of the doctrines connected with the resurrection of the Redeemer. Sermon IV., Gratitude * for victory over the last enemy,' 1 Cor. xv. 57.,-is a beautiful but unfinished sermon; it does not advert at sufficient length to the means by which the blessing has been procured. Sermon V., on the consolations of Religion, John xiv. 1. is a powerful and eloquent statement of the evils of life, and of the advantages of religion; though chargeable with some degree of vagueness and generality. Sermon VI., · The privileges of : the sons of God, John i. 12. This sermon contains some expressions which a captious criticism and an over-sensitive orthodoxy may condemn; but, on the whole, it is a very admirable one. Sermon VII., from the words, John xi. 35, • Jesus wept,' is one of the finest in the volume, and one of the most pleasing discourses we have lately met with. Sermon VIII. from Luke xi. 42. presents a philosophical and ingenious discussion on the nature, possibility, and advantages of love to God. This discourse would, however, have been considerably improved, if the Author had exhibited more fully the love of God in redemption, as the only instrument that can effectually conquer the enmity of the carnal mind against God. Sermon IX. from 1 Ephes. ii. 12, is an able demonstration of the depravity of mankind, from their natural forgetfulness of God. "Sermon X. The opposite tendency • of sin and of righteousness.' Rom. vi. 16. Though not the most interesting, this is the longest and perhaps the most elaborate discourse in the volume. It contains a masterly and philosophical defence and illustration of the various propositions implied in the text. The subjects of Sermons XI. and XII. are, · Knowledge and · Charity. Both of them are
carefully and correctly composed, and contain very striking paragraphs. Sermon XIII. on the Saviour's power over evil * spirits,' (from Ephes. vi. 10-12.) is at once argumentative and practical ; furnishing_altogether a very fine specimen of an expository discourse. The last discourse in the volume is founded on 1 Tim. i. 17. “ Now unto the King eternal, im
mortal, &c." and is very modestly entitled the Fragment of a Sermon.' It contains some very ingenious and profound remarks on the Divine attributes enumerated in the text; but it is too abstract and metaphysical to be popular, and we wish that some other discourse had been substituted in its place.
To the Sermons are subjoined two Table Services or Communion Addresses. The one is founded on John vi. 67, 68. * Then said Jesus to the twelve, Will ye also go away?" and the other on John xxi. 15. “.
Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me more than these ?" These two Table Services are, next to Mr. Lavington's, the finest specimens of this sort of sacramental addresses that we have met with. A volume of such addresses would furnish a very acceptable addition to the stores of our sacred eloquence.
We take our first specimen from the Sermon on 1 Cor. xv. .57.
• It is impossible to deny that a principle of final decay seems to pervade every thing on which the eye can rest. Within the records of the present inhabitants of the world, the stars have gone out in the firmament-mountains are decreasing to the level of the plainsthe stupendous cliffs that for ages threw back the tide of the ocean, slip down, at last, in fragments, and the ocean itself, by a deposition of rivers and the formation of rocks, is removed from its bed, and expands over a new channel, to the gradual destruction of the habitable globe. In organised bodies the effect of this tendency to decay is more visible : vegetation hardly arrives at perfection, when it dies!-the plant is finished, but, before we can contemplate its texture, it is withered; and the forest, whose hoary branches have flourished during ages, unsubdued by the hurricane and the wintry blast, ceases at last to decorate valley and hill, and is no longer to be traced but in the stinted copse, that lies scattered over a bleak country. The higher orders of frames endued with animal life, whose construction exhibits so rich a display of the wisdom of their Creator, and whose preservation calls forth so much of his care, even these are the victims of the same decay, and by the very superiority of their structure are more liable to derangement, and by their mutual wants and instincts, more exposed to destruction. pp. 77, 78. : The following characteristic passage occurs as the conclusion of the first division of the Sermon on the Privileges of the Sons of God.'
• Such is an attempt to speak of the privilege of becoming the sons of God. But to think or tâ speak aright here, who is able for these
things? who knows the value of this privilege? Sinners! ye do not know, for
know not the need of a Saviour. Believers ! ye do not know, for ye know not yet the blessedness of heaven. Glorified Saints ! ye know not, for ye know not the misery of divine wrath in hell. Angels! ye know not, for ye never fell, Son of God!.......... Yes, thou knowest, for thou didst pay its price.' p. 129.
As our last specimen, we shall give part of the second Sacramental Address; and, long as it is, the reader, we are sure; if he has not seen it before, will regret that it is not longer.
• It was the last time he was to break bread with his disciples : often had they assembled around him, at their simple repast-this was a farewell meeting. They were probably ignorant of it, but he knew that the family would never again meet thus in this world. And what he knew as a God, did he not feel as a man? His moistened eye went round the circle of his beloved associates, and as it dwelt in succession upon them, the circumstances of the commencement of their friendship, the incidents of their connexion, the evils they had endured in common, the comfort they had ministered to him, and their simple and oft-repeated declarations of unaffected attachment, presented themselves in melancholy array to his meditation. The disciple whom he loved lay on his bosom-on him, unobserved, he bent his look, and, scanning his placid features, said within himself-" Yet a little while, and thou shalt be left alone; and yet thou shalt not be alone, for I shall be with thee; my guardian arm shall be around thee as now; I will give my angels charge concerning thee; and when this hair is silvered with years, and this brow is fur. rowed with suffering, I will honour thee above thy brethren, and admit thee before thy time, to behold the glory which the Father hath given me.” Awakening from the fond contemplation, he raised bis eye, and fixed it on one that reclined opposite :" Simon, son of Jonas, Jovest thou me?" “ He reproaches me”-would the rash apostle first say; but he looked again, and there was no reproach on his Master's countenance. No! it was his own guilty conscience that shaded the light and distorted the features of that face, in which heaven-born kindness beamed. Affected with the injustice of his momentary suspicion, he burst into tears, and exclaimed, “ Lord, thou knowest all things, thou knowest that I denied thee; but thou knowest too, that I love thee."
• Is there a disciple of Christ at this table, who will not acknowledge that the character of Peter, in ils worst aspect, has been too strikingly his own? Who has not often said, in communion with his Saviour, “ Though all men shall be offended because of thee, yet will I never be offended; though I should die with thee, yet will I not deny thee?" And who has not as often been offended at and denied him-been offended at his law, because it restrained a fa. voured inclination, or excited to an irksome duty ?-denied his autho. rity, in the indulgence of carnality of thought, irregularity of feeling, deadness of affection, coldness of zeal, sufferance of inward sin, vex